Twangtown Thursdays, Richmond’s Antidote To Pop Country, Hits Balliceaux Tonight

by | Mar 27, 2014 | MUSIC

Twangtown Thursdays, a once monthly honky tonk/Americana/classic country/whatever you want to call it (because no one knows what to call country music anymore) showcase, happens tonight at Balliceaux.

Twangtown Thursdays, a once monthly honky tonk/Americana/classic country/whatever you want to call it (because no one knows what to call country music anymore) showcase, happens tonight at Balliceaux.

“Everybody has a different understanding of those genres, so it’s hard to talk about it,” said honky tonk woman Alison Self, who, along with Josh Bearman, organizes Twangtown. “I usually just say I play honky tonk or classic country. Mostly I just say, ‘listen to it! Be about it.’”

The goal of Twangtown? Get people to do just that: come out, listen, give country a chance.

Self and I spent a good deal of time talking about what it means to play country in this day and age. The genre has become so contorted – and in many ways marginalized – due to commercial takeover and the rise of pop country.

“People think that’s all it is. They’re like, ‘well, country’s dead–it’s all pop country shit now,’” said Self, who will be strummin’ the guitar and playing tunes reminiscent of Kitty Wells and Hank Williams tonight. “There’s a weird underground pop country scene of people [in Richmond] who want to be on pop country radio, and then there are old time country musicians who could care less about being on commercial radio.” Twangtown aims to shine the spotlight the latter.

Self also touches on the fact that Richmond has “a bit of an identity crisis” when it comes to its Southern roots.

“I think when people think about bluegrass or country music, they think of this image of this toothless, racist redneck–which exists, definitely, but the idea is so judgmental,” said Self. “It’s like, ‘just step out of your comfort zone, please!’ This music has such a rich history. Like, the Carter Family is from Clinch Mountain, Virginia. That’s the birth place of commercialized country music.”

Brownbird Rudy Relic at a past edition of Twangtown Thursdays

Self, who is quick to point out that she is not, in fact, a huge country music nerd, explains why she ever picked up a ukulele – and then later a guitar – and started strummin’ away.

“It’s good honest music,” she said. That sounds so old fashioned, but you can tell. You can tell if [an artist is] putting on airs, and you can tell if they’re putting on a persona. I don’t like that. When I see someone play music, I wanna see real shit. I wanna see emotion.”

And that’s what you get at Twangtown, which is free to attend, by the way. It’s real shit. The music played spans from blues to folk to Americana to rockabilly, but it’s all honest and true and good.

Over the past year, Twangtown has featured artists such as Richmond-based Red Light Rodeo; Charlottesville’s the Get Rights; the soulful Brownbird Rudy Relic, currently of New York; local country lord Andy Vaughan; and Northern Virginians Jake and the Burtones; among many, many others. Self generally opens, which she’ll be doing tonight alongside the Lonesome Lows–a two-piece band featuring upright bass and dobro. Mink’s Miracle Medicine of Charlottesville will be joining tonight’s lineup, playing twangy rock & roll tunes. It all starts at 9 PM over at Balliceaux, located at 203 N. Lombardy St in the Fan. As previously mentioned, it is free, so what are you waiting for? Come out! For more info, click here.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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